When people talk about the easiest way to get a “green card,” they are usually referring to the fastest means someone can become a permanent resident in the United States. This is the most important thing an immigrant might think of next to “how can I stay here for good?”
What makes the difference in these cases? A crucial concept called “immigrant visa preference categories.” U.S. immigration laws create specific preference categories under which foreign nationals might qualify for and be assigned a so-called “immigrant visa number.” Immigrant visa numbers are, in essence, spots in the waiting line for a green card. Some categories are “easier” than others in that one category might have no delay in available immigrant visa numbers, while other categories might have a ten to 15 year wait for visa number availability.
IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORIES AND THE VISA BULLETIN
The visa bulletin is a report issued by the U.S. Department of state monthly and it published the availability of immigrant visa numbers.
U.S. immigration law defines specific categories under which immigrant visa numbers can be assigned. The law also limits the total number of immigrant visa numbers that are given out in each category per year, and the number that can be given out to persons born in a particular country. The Visa Bulletin breaks down these categories and their associated numerical caps in a relatively-easy format to understand.
The categories listed under family-sponsored Preferences are First, Second, Third, and Fourth. Each category is defined in the Visa Bulletin. Unless otherwise noted, the word “children” refers to unmarried sons or daughters under the age of 21.
After the definitions for each category, the Visa Bulletin has a table listing each family-based preference category along with a series of “cutoff” dates. Only those would-be immigrants with a “priority date” on or before the cutoff date may apply for a visa. For family-based cases, the priority date is the date the petition to classify you as a potential immigrant was filed. (In certain circumstances where a petition was filed for you earlier, you might retain an earlier priority date.)
It is important to understand that you cannot calculate your exact wait time by looking at the cutoff date in your category. That is, a current cutoff date that is eight years ago means only that people who are getting their visas now have been waiting for eight years. It does not mean that you will have to wait exactly eight years. The cutoff dates change all the time according to how many people actually apply for visas in your category and how fast the State Department can process visas. Sometimes the cutoff date can move forward a whole year in one month. Sometimes the cutoff date can even move backwards!
If you need any type of Immigration services, do not hesitate to contact me, Hamzey Sobh, at 248-557-3645